Being a male of a 'certain age', that is, quite near the Dreaded 40 which Herring is so obviously fearing, "How Not To Grow Up" feels both like a very bad - and very good - situation comedy about middle age, and one of the greatest stand up sets of all time laid to print. The tales within are those of a minor mid-life cris, one that is instantly recognisable in the day and age where life doesn't get much better than it did when you were 20, when you still stuff your face with the crack cocaine of fried chicken with the man behind the counter who you see more often than your friends, and wonder where life went and what it is meant to be.
By the time you get to 40, you're meant to have it all worked out - where your life is going, what the purpose of it is, and probably settled down, married up, and bred - but life just doesn't always work out like that. (There is a plus side, Herring hasn't had a relationship longer than 2 years and that means he's never been divorced and never had to pay obscene amounts of money to an ex-wife, but that is hardly compensated by a life where your best friend is your DVD collection.. or is it?). Where this book differs from yoru standard run-of-the-mill Middle-Aged-Lad-Dad-Dick-Lit is that Herring has a moral compass, a context in which his mistakes are analysed and understood.
As most people never quite managed to live the life he has, and ended up accidentally a grown up with kids and a job, in one respect the self-imposed exile of indulgence sounds like a paradise when I, for example, have to battle a five year not to watch "Ben Ten And The Amazing Monsters" for the 3,742nd time in a day, there is also somewhat of a void, a lack of a narrative that provides a direction for the journey. : it seems impossible to have a life of indulgence without a lack of necessary direction. Still, when you are playing with 20p plastic spiders hiding in your navel, life can seem as an immense adventure.
Aside from this, which I connect with in a way that perhaps I have no other book in recent years - Herring has a deft turn of phrase, a brilliant way of telling a story that seems simply natural and belies years of experience, including a fabulously sly deconstruction of a meeting with a bank manager. In many ways, it feels to me as if this is an alternative biography, the kind of world which is both tantalisingly in reach and terrifying close. The process of 'kidulthood', that is, being an adult with a kid's soul, is realised fully in this book, and made clear that it is a double edged sword. Overall, I couldn't help but like the narrator, and his journey of self-discovery, self-delusion, and self-drunkeness shows a man looking for something more than life and something different, and doing so in a way that is both incisive and constantly entertaining : it's the longest, most compellingly confessional, and human tale of a mid life crisis I have written that thankfully eschews the self-pity and goes straight for the self-enlightened, cheerfully bewildered view of the lives that we often live without ever planning it to turn out quite that way. Recommended.